For many teams, the second half of the season will get underway this weekend and for others, the second half has already started. With 14 undefeated teams remaining, the race for one of the four spots in college football’s second playoff is wide open. The path however, is easier for some than others. Here’s a look at the five teams with the easiest paths to the College Football Playoff:
Quarterback Greg Ward Jr. has had unbelievable year for Houston, but the Cougars continue to be one of college football’s best kept secrets at 6-0. The obstacles standing between Houston and the College Football Playoff look to be Memphis and the committee.
Unlike Memphis, Houston will likely need to beat Temple only once to finish the season undefeated. Aside from Memphis, who the Cougars will face at home on Nov. 14, Houston has just one remaining regular season opponent that currently has a winning record and that’s Navy.
Beating Memphis and Navy at home would likely give the Cougars home-field advantage in the American Athletic Championship in early December.
Alabama was unable to avoid a loss during its stretch of four ranked teams in seven games to open the season, but the good news for the Crimson Tide is that the worst looks to be over. The loss at home to Ole Miss isn’t as respectable as it once looked, but Jake Coker is continuing to improve at quarterback and running back Derrick Henry has asserted himself as a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender.
The biggest remaining contest for Alabama is at home against undefeated and current No. 5 LSU on Nov. 7. Fortunately for the Crimson Tide, that game is in Tuscaloosa. LSU running back Leonard Fournette may be a load, but as a team, the Tigers have not been as good on the road, beating Mississippi State by just two and lowly Syracuse by just 10.
Should Alabama manage to beat LSU for the fourth straight time and avoid being upset by Mississippi State or Auburn, it would likely face either a Florida team its beat four straight times or a Georgia team it already handled this season in Athens, for the SEC crown. While Alabama does currently have a loss holding it back, it’s hard to envision the selection committee leaving a one-loss SEC champion out of the playoff.
Four of Clemson’s final six games are on the road, but all four are against unranked opponents. The Tigers have managed to eek out some close ones against Louisville and Notre Dame, but being potent on offense and opportunistic on defense is a recipe for success. The passing combination of Deshaun Watson and Artavis Scott may be the best in the ACC.
The biggest challenge remaining for Clemson is three-time defending ACC champion Florida State, but that contest is in Death Valley. FSU scored more points than any other Death Valley visitor ever in its last trip, but the Tigers have won four of the last five meetings between the teams in Clemson.
Miami, North Carolina, Duke and Pittsburgh would all be potential opponents in Charlotte, but it’s hard not to envision the Tigers being a healthy ACC Championship favorite against any of those teams.
It’s hard to imagine at the season’s midway point, but Iowa may be one upset away from the College Football Playoff. The Hawkeyes don’t have a regular season game remaining against a team with fewer than three losses.
That’s not to diminish what Iowa has done to this point. Neither winning at Wisconsin or Northwestern have been small tasks and the Hawkeyes are the only team to defeat Pittsburgh to this point. Iowa has yielded the 10th fewest points-per-game in the country and senior running back Jordan Canzeri managed to fly under the radar before injuring his ankle against Northwestern.
Iowa could easily run its remaining slate and get to the Big Ten Championship, where it would likely face the Ohio State-Michigan State winner. One upset there and Iowa might find itself two wins away from a national championship.
Many see Saturday’s contest at USC as a potential trap game, but Utah faces only two teams with a current winning record the rest of the way and none currently ranked.
Those teams are Arizona, who the Utes will visit on Nov. 14, and UCLA. Arizona has defeated Utah three straight times, but the Wildcats lost their only two contests against ranked opponents this season by an average margin of 32 points. Utah will get UCLA at home.
Senior running back Devontae Booker has been the heart and soul of the Utah offense while the defense led by end Pita Taumoepenu is giving up less than 20 points-per-game. If Utah is able to run the table in the regular season, it will likely face Stanford at home for the conference crown.